Youth connect with STEAM subjects through new, hands-on program

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation
Hala Chikh Omar shows off her "Doodle Bot" during an activity session with the STEAM Effect Project.

A new program at the Canada Science and Technology Museum is getting youth excited about science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

Launched last fall, the STEAM Effect Project provides a cost-free opportunity for youth (ages 12 to 17) who do not usually participate in after-school programs, and who don’t seem themselves represented in the fields of STEAM.

“In our first session, the participants made propeller cars, they made bridges out of K’Nex and tested to see which would hold the most weight, they planted seeds and watched them grow, and they went to the National Gallery to see Anthropocene, the art exhibition about human impact on the environment,” says Olivia Béchard, coordinator of the STEAM Effect Project.

 “One of the big focuses of the program is to engage kids in science, technology, math, arts, and engineering in a way that's fun and makes them want to continue pursuing these avenues.”

Béchard says many of the participants in the inaugural session of the STEAM Effect Project were new to Canada, and sometimes they had to find ways to overcome the language barrier.

“There were four kids who don't speak English super well,” she says. “But one of the nice things is that some of the kids who spoke English a little bit better would translate to Arabic for the others, so that they’d understand; we were all working together to learn.”

Thirteen-year-old Hala Chikh Omar was one of the participants in the STEAM Effect Project. She says the program had a positive impact on her outlook towards science.

“Now science is more fun for me; I like it more and it’s more challenging,” says Chikh Omar. “When I was small and I didn’t come to the museum, no...but now I really like it and I want to do science!”

During one of the STEAM Effect Project sessions, the youth had a visit from Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“She talked a little bit about what she does, and for a lot of the kids it was the first time they actually got to meet somebody in government,” says Béchard, adding the visit was one of the highlights for the group. “For those kids coming from the Middle East, the government there only attend elite functions; it’s not something that kids or regular people have access to, so for her to talk to them was a really cool experience.”

A new session of the STEAM Effect Project runs from Feb. 6 to May 11, 2019. The program, which has room for 15 participants, runs every Wednesday (from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and Saturday (from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.).

Béchard says the next session promises more hands-on, interactive activities relating to STEAM topics.

“Throughout the program, you’ll get to build your STEAM skills,” says Béchard. “We’ll be working specifically in the areas of soldering, coding, 3D printing, laser cutting, using hand tools and power tools, and in prototyping.”

Applications for participation in the STEAM Effect Project must be received by Jan. 18, 2019. Full details are available on the Ingenium website.

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.